Wednesday, June 25th was my first Greenbelt Practice crit. I rode the 'B' crit and was pleased to find my teammates Mike Butz and Steve Erlemeier in my race as well. I had pinned my number on the wrong side so once I corrected that I had barely any warm up time left. I did one quick loop around the wooded 1.4M course. The start/finish is on a flat stretch at the top of a hill and other than that the course is 0.6M down and 0.6M up. A nice fun course with only 1 turn to speak of. After a bit of chatting we rolled up, got the speech from the official and we were off for 20 laps!
It was a large field for the event I'm told - about 45 guys. The only other team I noticed that had numbers was Rout1Velo which hosts the races. They do a great job by the way - low key atmosphere, well organized and free bagles! One of their guys was coming off the omnium win in the Cat4 division at Tour of Washington and was also the 'B' points leaders in the series. He went off the front and his team did a good job of working for him by holding the pelaton back and he won by a minute.
I started the race on the front line but drifted into the front 3rd on the decent and then further back at the first turn eventually ending up at the back of the race. I felt more comfortable with those technical aspects of the course with every lap but with the yellow line rule in effect everywhere except the bottom turn I was boxed to the back. I was frustrated and took a couple of dumb chances that that could have ended badly. I definitely learned to keep my cool in the future. If you're boxed you're boxed - you can't ride through people. You have to be safe.
It took me almost a 1/3 of the race to move up. I kept poking at the lines to see if there were good place to sneak through. And it wasn't till I happened to be in line behind 3 other guys who all decided to move to the front that I was able to get to the front myself.
I was now thoroughly warmed up. I hadn't so much as breathed hard and with nearly half the race behind me I went to the front and turned it ON. I spent about 3 laps pushing away. I would pull off but the guy who got in front would invariably slow it up so I would get back on and punch it. Things stringed out and a couple of guys must have popped.
You can always count on me to shake up a race.
Now at the front of the pack the descents and the corner were much easier and faster. Around 8 laps to go there was a prime. I was on the front row but having learned from my failed prime attempt at the Cargas Crit that nearly ended my race there I held back. As we neared to top of the climb I went.
I sprinted but I was running out of gas before the line, I surged and surged checking between my legs to see if a wheel was chasing. No one came around me. I got the line first and looked back - the pelaton had no interest in chasing me and I had put almost 10 sec into them.
Nice. My first prime of the season and in a deciding fashion.
I chilled out for a few laps and ended up near the middle of the pack. Now much more comfortable with course I was able to position myself well on the descents and pass through the inside of the turns. With about 4 to go I found myself back on the front.
With 3 to go we saw another prime lap. I though to myself "whoever goes for this is going to blow their race". Down the hill we went and back up. Nearing the top no one had made a move and I was still on the front.
I could hear everyone breathing behind me and watching for the move. I made sure we were closer then last time and when I could just see the line I ignored my own advice and jumped off the front and went for it full tilt.
This time I saw a wheel chasing through my legs so I went to the gutter to keep him in the wind. With about 30m to go he came around but I didn't let him pass. He got about 1/2 a bike on me but I pulled up again. The last 10m were an inches back and forth between us. We both threw our bikes and looked at each other. We each though the other had gotten it. After the race I found out the officials had deemed it too close to call and we both got a prime. So in the end I came away with $20 in tokens to the local car wash - my first winnings of the season.
The prime had gone off with 3 laps to go so when we finished we had 2 laps to go. The pelaton has stayed close so I made sure to stay to the front of the decent and as we were climbing I realized the bell lap was coming up. Up and over we went with the officials bell clanging next to us.
It was race time.
I came down the decent and out of the corner in 2nd - closer to the front than I would have liked but now was not the time to drop back. The guy in front of me starting slowing and I knew he was spent. "Nows the time to push it" I yelled at him and surprisingly he picked it back up for about 10 more seconds. About 600m from the finish he pulled off and I was in front.
Too far to sprint I still ramped the speed up and up. I was feeling good and I knew guys were dropping off. I was in the right gutter and guys started coming around on my left but not passing so we were now in a line across the road with the yellow line rule no longer in effect.
Sitting in about 5th place I thought I heard Mike say "Come on Alex!" right behind me (I found out later it was Steve). I saw I was in perfect position for a lead out. "Are you ready Butz!" I yelled. Butz meanwhile was all the way on the yellow line and slightly in front of me and was understandably a little confused - you know - with me offering a lead out from behind. Steve was on the ball though and went with me as I cranked it. It was 50m to go and sprints were starting. I pulled up enough to lead Steve out and he went flying with a couple of other guys eventually winning the bunch sprint for 3rd (someone has bridged up to the leader earlier in the race).
I was two strokes into my final sprint to fight with everyone else for the scraps and - BAM - Ground - Head - Roll Away.
I was on the ground again. I knew I had hit my head but not badly. I got close to my bike and braced for the hit from behind that thankfully never came.
I rolled off the road into the grass once the pelaton had passed and lay on my back. I was stinging all over from the pavement but put my hand straight in the air with a thumbs up so people would know I was OK.
I them yelled something to the effect of:
"CAN I PLEASE JUST CAT UP SO PEOPLE WILL STOP CRASHING INTO ME"
I got up and reassured everyone I was fine. I had 3 scraps on my forearm, one on my triceps, my back, my knee and all on the outside of my shin. I flushed the ones that were bleeding a lot with water from my bottle and saw that none were too deep. I would find out later that my jersey was slightly ripped on the back, my top tube had the slightest of dents and my indestructible 1999 Ultergra9 derallier has another gash in it. My wheel was so out of true it was rubbing on my fork and went flat about 200m into my cool down.
I took off my helmet (just a small scratch there), my gloves (a small rip on the palm and a fingernail pulled up - very glad I bought these) and my shoes and walked into the woods. Still fuming I went till I was out of sight of the spectators and picked up a branch about the size of my arm. I took a few steps and swung as hard as I could into a tree with it.
The branch shattered.
I felt better.
4 crashes and 2 DNFs in a month should have left me pretty pissed but all in all I knew I had a really aggressive race. Lots of pulls on the front and finally some primes to show for it. I was proud of myself.
What I was really upset about wasn't that someone else had bumped me from behind (I didn't hit anyone and I didn't just fall off the bike) but rather that they didn't have the character to come by and ask if I was OK afterwards. Accidents happen but a mae culpa would have been nice.
I mean I was bleeding from like 7 different places it was pretty clear who I was!
Anyway - great showing my the LSV 4/5 team.